An MGM-backed bill to strengthen enforcement of gun bans in casinos narrowly passed the Senate on Wednesday and faces an uncertain future in the Assembly.
Senate Bill 452, an emergency bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, would make it a misdemeanor to carry or possess a firearm on casino properties that have chosen to ban them. MGM Resorts helped present the bill, arguing it would help ensure safety for employees and visitors to their gaming properties.
The bill resurrected language that was stripped out of the session’s “ghost gun” bill, Assembly Bill 286, which targets the sale and possession of virtually untraceable guns that can be easily made via DIY kits. AB286 cleared both houses on party line votes after significant amendments.
SB452 would not get to that point. It drew more pointed opposition both publicly and privately, and not just from the people who typically oppose gun reform. Because SB452 permits police officers to directly enforce gaming property gun bans, it’s been labeled a “stop and frisk” bill by groups like the ACLU who say it will lead to racial discrimination.
Joining all nine Republican senators in voting against the bill was Democratic state Sen. Dina Neal, who cited concerns from her constituents about over policing.
“I respect my colleagues. I respect their positions. I respect the families that work in casinos. But when we talk about guns, and when we talk about what is perceived to be police interactions, negative police interactions, it draws up serious emotions for communities that are minority majority on how they have encountered police,” said Neal.
She added, “Sometimes there are bills where you cannot in good conscience go against your constituents.”
Neal said she wasn’t planning on giving a floor statement against the bill but did at the urging of fellow Democrat, state Sen. Pat Spearman.
Spearman, who served in the military police for nearly three decades, emphasized her belief that the majority of cops were good but that a small minority of bad ones worry her.
“I wish I didn’t have to choose. Plain and simple. I wish I didn’t have to choose,” said Spearman. “Will one of 98% show up and do the job they’re trained to do? Or will one of 2% show up and the only thing they see is an opportunity to kill someone who is in a BIPOC community? That’s hard to hear. It’s even harder to say as a retired police officer.”
Spearman ultimately voted for the bill.
In his own floor statement on the bill, Democratic state Sen. James Ohrenschall said he too had concerns but was ultimately won over by amendments to the bill, which included a provision requiring data collection on its enforcement. If data suggests racial profiling and a disparate impact on communities of color, he said, the bill could be revisited by a future legislature.
SB452 passed a lengthy joint judiciary committee hearing on a party-line vote Saturday. Now, having narrowly cleared the full Senate, it can be considered by the full Assembly.